An interview is a big opportunity to make an impression on employers. One of the best ways to do that is to turn the tables and start asking the questions. Not only does this demonstrate to interviewers that you have a keen interest in the job, but it also shows that you are inquisitive and thoughtful. Here are four kinds of questions you should be asking at your next interview – because sometimes the best defense is a good offense.
Understanding office interaction
Whether you are applying for a position in one department of a huge company or stepping into the one-room office of a start-up, it is important that you understand how the company hierarchy and culture work. Questions about the office should focus on how different departments interact, who reports to whom and how employees engage their peers and bosses on a daily basis.
In terms of daily interactions, your questions should be nuanced – you want to know how your department is designed to work with others, as well as what the actual working relationship is. You should also get an understanding of how you are to report to your bosses, and what kind of rapport you can expect. Are bosses relatively congenial or is everything done strictly by e-mail? This kind of differentiation may also help you to get a better understanding of the office politics and the kind of environment into which you might be stepping. Not to overlook are peer interactions – is there a friendly team atmosphere or is daily engagement discouraged?
Related to the question of interaction is the pace of the office. Is there heavy workflow with lots of people moving around? Are people restrained to cubicles? Furthermore, are you encouraged to make suggestions for the company? Encouraged conversation, interaction, innovation and company-wide involvement in business goals are usually hallmarks of a good, engaging employer. You should work to find out how much your opinion is valued in the company. If the answer is not very much, then you may want to look elsewhere for employment.
Reading dreams, nightmares
Prepared candidates will have done research on the history and objectives of the company with which they are interviewing. The one-on-one conversation is a great time to show off that knowledge, while filling in the gaps that the company’s website leaves in question.
Business Insider provided a few great questions in this regard. First, what is one thing that is key to the company’s success that the general public may not know about? This question is incisive in that it immediately parses out company image from company reality, or at least how your interviewer sees it. Perhaps there is a failure in branding that accounts for the discrepancy, or maybe the way the company operates is a well-guarded secret. Either way, the question could get to the heart of a company’s operations.
Secondly, which competitor is the company most worried about? This question gives you a better lay of industry land, and could also reveal the company’s own self-perception. A great follow-up question is to ask how the position to which you are applying can give the company an edge over its competitor.
Finally, ask what the company’s overall business plan is in the coming months. This question will give better insight into the strategies employed by the company, suggests to employers that you can think in terms of the big picture and demonstrates that you are interested in the long view.
Turning the tables
You are sitting in a room with influential people of a company who want to hear what you have to say. Now is the perfect opportunity to find out what they think about the job and the company. You should not be afraid to ask them what they enjoy about their jobs and the business overall.
More importantly, though, you should not hesitate to ask what aspect of the job keeps them up at night, Business Insider suggested. The answer will give insight into the stress of the job. If the interviewer will be your boss, it also gives you a sense of what their focuses and concerns are.
You may also ask interviewers what kind of leaders they hope to be and where they see themselves in five years. If they once worked the same job you would be working, ask them what they liked about the position and how it compares to their current job.
Getting to brass tacks
At the end of the day, what you really want to know are the specifics of the job. Basic questions worth asking are the hours and stress involved, as well as what kind of rewards system is in place for employees.
These are all technical questions worth knowing the answer to. However, the more impressive questions are those that aim for a better understanding of your role in the company and what you can do to perform the best possible job. Determine what your responsibilities are. Also, ask how the job has evolved and how the employers see the job changing over the coming year. Finally, ask how previous holders of the job have been successful or even exceeded expectations.
Gauging the audience
It will likely be impossible to ask all of these questions, unless an interviewer has an entirely free afternoon. Prioritize your questions, starting with the three most important ones. Keep them broad so that you can get longer answers and better explorations. If they seem eager to hear more from you, then ask away.
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